By Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr.
Black Americans are blessed, not cursed. I say that because it is true and verifiable. As a people we are blessed with intellectual genius, creativity, ingenuity and a vast multitalented reservoir of human resources, energy and spirit. Of course all people are blessed with unique as well as universal blessings of humanity. But, I am so thankful for the special and revealed blessings of Black America, I just cannot keep silent when I am exposed to Black American genius and brilliance.
What am I talking about now?
It was the 9th Annual Taste of Soul 2014 Family Festival on the historic Crenshaw Boulevard, located in the heart of South Central Los Angeles. I witnessed firsthand how more than 400,000 sisters and brothers from near and far stood together for nearly 10 hours on October 18, 2014. It was an inspiring day. It was a revival of the soul of America. It was, from my perspective, a glimpse of heaven on earth.
The gathering was inter-generational. People of all ages and all ethnicities came out in massive crowds to enjoy, celebrate and to reaffirm the mutual respect and dignity of all the communities that make up the city of Los Angeles. The “Taste of Soul” tasted good not only for those assembled, but for all the others who had immersed themselves in the very orderly and peaceful family festival.
More than 300 independent, Black-owned and other businesses were lined up and down Crenshaw, participating in one of the largest and most successful annual street festivals in America. As a long-time community organizer, I know from experience that successful events like the Los Angeles “Taste of Soul,” do not just happen through osmosis. It takes a lot of hard and smart work.
It takes the serious commitment of a dedicated group of planners, corporate sponsors, elected officials, civic and community leaders, entrepreneurs and grass roots businesses, together with media and entertainment legends, led in this instance by the single visionary leadership of Danny J. Bakewell, Sr. Brother Danny is the executive publisher and CEO of the Los Angeles Sentinel and the L.A. Watts Times. He is also the former chairman of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) and an outstanding global business leader of the Bakewell Company, a family-owned group of businesses.
“Taste of Soul” was both a local and a national success story. At a time when there has been a lot of focus of the injustices that continue to be perpetrated on too many of our brothers and sisters in Black America, this was a much needed therapeutic national day of Black American unity, joy, passion and spiritual empowerment. Yet, we also affirmed during the “Taste of Soul” the necessity for further expansion of the economic development and progress of our families, businesses and communities.
Corporate leaders must understand that the sponsorship and partner support of major national events in Black America are in fact important to how the Black American community views their businesses. It was good to see General Motors, and in particular its Buick division, as a key sponsor of “Taste of Soul,” as well as sponsorships from Toyota, Bank of America and others.
For me, the real appraisal happened in real time when Danny Bakewell Sr asked me to join him in walking Crenshaw. It was amazing to see up close how entire family members were navigating through the crowds. Many sisters had baby carriages and were welcomed by courteous brothers who routinely parted the way so that these mothers could pass through the mass of people with a respectful ease. Thousands came up to Bakewell to say, “Thank you for doing this. We needed to come together.” Others affirmed, “Wow, this is great. So much unity….so much love and peace.”
Yes, the food was sumptuous. Queen Latifah was the “Celebrity Chairperson” of the festival and she received tremendous rounds of applause from the audience at each of the festival stages. The “Taste of Soul” was our nation at its best. Let’s have that kind of unity and self-respect on each day of the year. Let’s continue the struggle for freedom, justice and equality. Long live the spirit and legacy of Taste of Soul.”
Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. is the president and CEO of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) and can be reached for national advertisement sales and partnership proposals at: firstname.lastname@example.org; and for lectures and other professional consultations at: http://drbenjaminfchavisjr.wix.com/drbfc.